Early Light

I have been waking early. Very early. When at last, after adjusting the pillow, pitching it overboard, lying on my stomach, my side, my back, trying to remember the lines of a poem, dithering over the to-do list, choosing a sacred word in hope of dropping into centering prayer, and wondering who is riding a motorcycle in this quiet neighborhood at this hour, I get up. My ambivalent efforts to 1) return to sleep or 2) make good use of wakefulness have failed. I make coffee quietly so as not to disturb my slumbering spouse. He also has wakeful nights. This isn’t one of them.

I light a candle. Candlelight soothes me and helps me focus. When the wick catches, a new bit of life happens. “Light of Christ,” I think, remembering the lighting of the Paschal candle at the Easter vigil. The small flame is a revelation: God is light. All light speaks of God, “whose robe is the light.”

A mentor told me one time to step out at night before going to bed and spend two minutes gazing at the moon. He wouldn’t say why. “Just try it,” he said. I do, sometimes. It’s not always two whole minutes; when it’s cold, or the moon is partly clouded over, or the phone rings I may spend only a few moments. I don’t do it every night. But when I do, something happens. Perspective shifts. Some ancient pagan impulse to bow before a natural mystery surges in me like a wave of adrenalin. Beauty I did not make and cannot comprehend brings me back to awe, which seems a proper state of mind for “human merely beings.”

Moonlight is worth staying up for. Candlelight is worth getting up for. As daylight comes “a ribbon at a time,” I am ready to welcome it. I begin the day with a small, familiar prayer from the liturgy: “In your light may we see light.”

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